[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless (GDC, Gamasutra co-runner), rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.
This week's highlights include the top news from Blizzcon around Diablo and other devilish titles, Toby Fox's Deltarune & his radical transparency, and Marty O'Donnell talking 'The Music Of The Spheres', among many other great stories & videos.
Not much else to add this week, other than - wow, there's a lot of fascinating material out there on the Interweb. Enjoy! Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
There Are Not “Too Many Games”: What The Indiepocalypse Panic Ignores (Liz Ryerson / Deorbital - ARTICLE)
"Author Steven Wright frames the issue, like many voices in games do, as if it’s a moral crisis to solve with the greatest urgency. The implied perception here for many videogame fans when they hear “too many games” is that storefronts are filled with low-quality cash-grabs, akin to the infamous Videogame crash of 1983... But a massive wave of new creativity has also come along with this flood of games."
Diablo Immortal on phones, WarCraft 3: Reforged top BlizzCon’s announcements (Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Announcements of a brand-new, smartphone-only Diablo and a remastered WarCraft 3 headlined a news-filled BlizzCon keynote presentation on Friday. The talk focused on games across Blizzard Entertainment's portfolio—along with a huge freebie from its corporate siblings at Bungie. [SIMON'S NOTE: a useful roundup!]"
‘Call of Cthulhu’ Shows We Need to Move Past H.P. Lovecraft Once and for All (Matthew Gault / Motherboard - ARTICLE)
"Deep below the moldering husk of the Hawkins Mansion, as I creeped closer to the cultists chanting obscene words in a dialect not meant for human mouths, I had a revelation. A profound truth shattered my mind, leaving me reeling from its spiteful certainty. [SIMON'S NOTE: also see 'Call of Cthulhu' Is the Rare Bad Game That's Probably Still Worth Playing.]
Marty O'Donnell: The Origin Story Of Music Of The Spheres (Kate Remington / ResetEra & WSHU - PODCAST & TEXT EXCERPT)
"So Kate Remington is a public radio broadcaster at WSHU in Connecticut, and in addition to being a classical music DJ she also hosts a program dedicated to video game composers. Well, she's also a huge Marty O'Donnell fan. Back in February, she interviewed The Elder for over an hour about the story behind his Music of the Spheres, the prequel suite of music that actually predates almost every single design concept of Destiny. [SIMON'S NOTE: linking to the ResetEra post about this because it's a good 'explainer' for the podcast itself!]"
Behind the colorful music wheel of Wandersong (Bryant Francis / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"A few weeks ago, the humble little music adventure Wandersong snuck out onto Steam and the Nintendo Switch. It caught our attention not only because of its vibrant tone, but also because its primary mechanic stuck out as a genuinely inventive idea that fueled some really interesting gameplay."
The Story Of Super Mario Bros. 3: 30th Anniversary Retrospective (Gajillionaire / YouTube - VIDEO)
"On October 23, 1988, Nintendo of Japan released Super Mario Bros 3 to an eager and receptive public. The game was not only meant to be Mario’s, newest, biggest and most exciting adventure, but was meant to represent the culmination of the previous 5 years that Nintendo had spent building its reputation and would cement their legacy for all time. [SIMON'S NOTE: Standout YouTube mini-doc here!]"
Before crucial holiday season, Nintendo struggles as Sony shines (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"As 2017 came to a close, Nintendo was busy reveling in Switch sales that were exceeding expectations while Sony's PlayStation 4 was showing signs that its strong sales had peaked. Leading into the all important 2018 holiday season, the companies' comparative console war outlooks seem to have changed a bit."
The 35 greatest horror games of all time (Various / AV Club - ARTICLE)
"The A.V. Club’s trip through the history of horror games found endless tensions to unpack: playability versus difficulty, spooky-fun versus truly terrifying, historical importance versus modern appeal. Mostly, though, we agreed on games that come alive with the possibilities of horror, whether it’s splattery gore, psychedelic architectural spaces, or truly gonzo game mechanics."
How to make a Roguelike (Josh Ge / Gamasutra Blogs - ARTICLE & VIDEO)
"A couple years ago at the first Roguelike Celebration I did a talk about how I became a developer, but this time I wanted to talk about how anyone can go about making their own roguelike. It’s pretty common for roguelike players to at least dabble in development. We’re inspired by the games we play and want to make something better, something different, or just something of our own. My talk definitely isn’t a tutorial, it’s more about how to get started and general advice to help you along the way."
Assassin's Creed Odyssey presents a ‘softer’ version of slavery (Xalavier Nelson Jr. / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"Unfortunately, since Odyssey is a game about kicking mercenaries twice your level off cliffs and not a history book, we aren’t given the information necessary to understand how and why these differences emerged. Without this context, Ubisoft’s representation of the relationship between slave, master, and Greek culture falls into a Twilight Zone of grinning, apologetic slaves and noble masters that only becomes more disturbing over time."
Binary Skin - Exploring Japan’s Virtual YouTuber phenomenon (Archipel / YouTube - ARTICLE)
"Starting in 2016, Virtual YouTubers have been rapidly growing in Japan, with new creators and audiences rising each day. Evolving as hybrids between humans and characters — we looked into the “vtuber” movement, this new generation of content creators, exploring its ecosystem, its technology and its evolution as an industry. [SIMON'S NOTE: one of these virtual YouTubers did a video series for Not Tonight that had a crazy amount of custom graphics and translations, but a non-human presenter. It's... a thing.]"
Video games remind us that not everything in life has a computable answer (Ian Bogost / QZ - ARTICLE)
"Becoming good at games requires developing a comfort with having your actions measured numerically. Those who become particularly adept gain the ability to see through a game’s decorative shroud to the supposedly “real” machinery making it work underneath. But that idea has consequences: Think that way enough, and you might conclude that everything in life has a computable answer."
Autumn (Reply All / Gimlet - PODCAST)
"So the story starts when Autumn’s 8 or 9, and her mom drags her to this baby shower—’cause, you know, sometimes your mom drags you to stuff that you really don't want to be at. And she's not alone because there's this other girl there that doesn't want to be there either, and the girl is like, "Hey! Like, come to my room. I have something I want to show you." And so they go. And the girl like boots up this computer. And there it is, this tiny world that Autumn’s never seen before. The Sims."
Red Dead Redemption 2: Should Crunch Impact Reviews? (Kyle Orland / GameDaily - ARTICLE)
"Before the game’s review embargo broke last Thursday, Rockstar had already endured nearly two weeks of withering press criticism and in-depth coverage of the problematic work environment surrounding the making of Red Dead Redemption 2. It was a situation so big and important that many reviewers felt it couldn’t be ignored when evaluating the game itself."
Dealing with Scope Change in Heat Signature and Gunpoint (Tom Francis / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2018 GDC talk, Suspicious Developments' Tom Francis explains why his spaceship infiltration game 'Heat Signature' took 3x longer than hacking puzzler 'Gunpoint', and shares what he's learned about how to spot difficult projects before they get out of control."
The story of NEMO, Hasbro’s console that never was (Jeremy Parish / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"By the time it debuted on Sega CD, it already seemed rather hokey and dated. The game was fundamentally half a decade old by the time it reached consumers, the victim of rapid upheavals in game technology. Night Trap was laid low by the eleventh-hour demise of a console that never got off the ground: Hasbro’s NEMO, also known as Control-Vision."
‘Undertale’ Creator Says ‘Deltarune’ Isn’t a Sequel, Has No Idea When it Will Be Done (Victoria Fox / Variety - ARTICLE)
"Over three years after the release of the ambitious smash RPG “Undertale,” its director Toby Fox released what appeared to be a spiritual follow-up, “Deltarune,” with little notice... But “Deltarune” isn’t just a “demo,” and the scope is far beyond that of any “sequel,” especially to creator Toby Fox. In fact, according to a Twitlonger posted to Fox’s personal account, it technically isn’t even a sequel — or directly related to “Undertale’s” original plot at all. [SIMON'S NOTE: Just highlighting this because it's free, a fascinating way to sketch out new material, and as wonderful as Undertale.]"
VR has already taken people with dementia to the seaside - and now video games are exploring neurological disease itself (Luke Kemp / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Mary is living with dementia at Belmont View, a Quantum Care home in Hertfordshire. Clearly distressed and disoriented, she is carefully led to a comfortable chair by carers. Once she is settled (though still visibly agitated), a virtual reality headset is gently placed onto her head. "Ooh, look at it," she immediately says in wonder. Mary is sitting in a virtual beach scene diorama."
Backlash to streamer with a 'God complex' reveals a big Twitch taboo (Patricia Hernandez / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"The intense reaction is no surprise: the streamer, who admits he has a “god complex,” comes off as arrogant and self-aggrandizing, which points out a potential hypocrisy for viewers: we expect celebrities to be bigger than life when entertaining us, but when speaking as individuals, they must always be humble... if you watch the entire video, the viral clip takes on a new context."
How players brought the freeform world of Genesis LPMud back from the brink (Lewis Packwood / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"Genesis LPMud is one of the oldest online multiplayer games in the world: it’s been running for nearly 30 years. But six years ago it almost came to an end. This is the story of how an enthusiastic cadre of fans rallied to save it from extinction."
[REMINDER: you can sign up to receive this newsletter every weekend at tinyletter.com/vgdeepcuts - we crosspost to Gamasutra later on Sunday, but get it first via newsletter! Story tips and comments can be emailed to [email protected] MINI-DISCLOSURE: Simon is one of the organizers of GDC and Gamasutra & an advisor to indie publisher No More Robots, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]